As a beauty writer, I've heard my share of "hair disappointment stories." This is what I call those appointments where you don't leave the salon in tears, but are underwhelmed. Perhaps you expected to feel more understood by your stylist, or you wanted brighter highlights, or an entirely different cut.
The key to finding the right haircut for you is clear communication with your hairstylist. That, and being totally prepared for your appointment. To help you get ready for your new look, we’ve enlisted the help of pro-hairstylist Devin Toth of New York City-based Salon SCK for his best tips on how to get the right cut for you.
Meet the Expert
- Devin Toth is a pro-hairstylist at New York City-based Salon SCK.
If you're making a big change to your haircut, you'll want some solid ideas before actually sitting down in your stylist’s chair. After all, you risk major disappointment if you sit down and tell your stylist, "Cut it all off," or "Do what you want." Aside from the magazines that are sitting in the waiting area of your salon, there are a number of things you can do for inspiration: Toth suggests looking at Instagram accounts of pro-hairstylists (his favorite accounts for haircuts include that of Jayne Matthews, Dominick Serna, Holly Seidel, and Lo Shabino), as well as your own personal photo albums. "Take a deep dive down memory lane with a bunch of photos to remind yourself of hairstyles, colors, and lengths that you loved—and hated," he says.
Look For the Right Hairstylist
The right stylist is essential to getting a great haircut. I find that the very, very best way to find one that is right for you is to ask someone with great hair who they went to. Toth echoes this, adding that you should give your stylist that person's name. "Knowing which client referred you will immediately clarify the sort of cut and color you are into,” he says.
Check Out Your Hairstylist's Reviews
If you think you've found the hairstylist for you—fantastic! Toth says to remember to do your due diligence and research what has been written up about them. “Look them up on Google, Instagram and Yelp,” he says. “Instagram will show you their aesthetic and work, Google will show you their reviews, as well as articles they’ve been featured in. Of course, Yelp will also show you true reviews.”
He adds that you should remember to read all reviews with a grain of salt. “People are typically more motivated to write about bad experience than they are to write about a good one,” he says.
Schedule a Consultation
A hair consultation is a conversation between you and your hairdresser about the haircut you’re after. “Consultations are meant to get you and your hairdresser on the same page before anything is done to your hair,” says Toth. “It separates the attainable from the aspirational.”
To make the most of your consultation, Toth says to walk in with how your hair looks normally. This tells the hairstylist what it looks like dry or how it naturally dries. He also suggests preparing questions (like, "How long will this haircut take me to style in the morning?") and bringing any photo references you might have for your look. It’s always show, never tell, when it comes to your hair.
Prepare For the Possibility of Your Hairstylist Disagreeing With Your
There you are, photo in hand and your stylist tells you they can't make you look like the person in the photo, what do you do? Always consider a professional opinion, but you know your hair and how much work you'll put into it best. Here are some examples of how to handle a stylist's dissent.
- They tell you the cut won't work with your face shape. While face shape matters, there are many other factors to consider when getting a cut, including your personality and your desires. Thank them for their professional opinion and then say, "But I really want to try this, and I trust you to do it. If it doesn't look good on my face, we'll blame me, not you."
- They tell you your hair texture won't work well with the cut. Ask if products and styling tools could make a difference. If your hair is too curly, would it work if you committed to blow drying it? If your hair is too straight, would volumizing spray and a curling iron help?
If your stylist won't listen, then it may be time to find a new stylist. But keep in mind, a stylist is the skilled professional and is trained to know what they can do and what would work best for a client.
Show With Your Hands
One of the most common disappointments I hear about from those with hair horror stories are when stylists take off far more than you'd discussed. When it comes to length, stylists tell me it's better to show it rather than say it. Instead of saying you want three inches off, actually, take your hand and demonstrate exactly where you'd like your stylist to cut. Also, don't be afraid to speak up during your haircut if you feel it's too long or even too short.
Be Honest With Your Stylist
It might sound obvious, but being honest with your stylist about your expectations for your new look is crucial. “If you’re not honest with your hairdresser about what you like and don’t like, you’ll never end up getting exactly what you want,” Toth says. “The continuous honest dialogue ensures that your hair gets better and better with every visit. You always need to share your nuanced or strong opinions so that your hair continuously improves.”
Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up
If you are nervous about the direction the cut or color is going, don't be afraid to speak up and share your concern. And if you are unhappy with the cut or color once it's done, you should be able to say so in a polite way. Stylists appreciate honesty. Plus, there's nothing worse than a regular customer who never returns to your salon, and you have no idea why.